When Arthur Young visited Carlow in 1792 he stayed at Brownshill.
In his diary he noted the excellent cultivation of the hills overlooking
the Barrow and marvelled at the industry of the men of Killeshin and
When Lewis’s Topographical dictionary of Ireland was published in
11,37 Killeshin was praised for the quality of the waters flowing from
its chalybeate springs; Graigue was remarkable for its distillery which
produced 26,000 gallons of whiskey a year!
The parishes of Graiguecullen and Killeshin have been united for
many years but there are still two distinct communities. Graigue is
mainly industrial and is part of the larger social and economic unit
that we call Carlow.
Killeshin is mainly rural in its interests but many of the men of
Killeshin come down daily to work in Carlow. Many are part-time farmers,
a pattern that becomes more common all over Ireland. The man who is part
farmer and whole time industrial worker maintains a healthy contact with
nature and the rhythm of the seasons.
The hills overlooking Carlow provide a natural park for people of
the town who may wish to walk in the woods, ramble across the bogs or
simply explore the pleasures of unspoiled countryside and spectacular
scenery. It is often remarked that in any other European country endowed
with the kind of scenic beauty which may be viewed from the dancing
board at Rossmore a tourist restaurant would be provided.
It is certainly true that many people during the summer motor on
crowded roads to the coast at Courtown when they could have enjoyed a
marvellous evening in the fresh air climbing or picnicking above the cut
of Killeshin, only minutes away from Carlow.
I hope that the people of Graiguecullen will not take it amiss if
I say that 1973 has been the year of Killeshin. Both sections of the
parish united to honour their parish priest, Fr. Patrick Byrne, in
celebrating his 50 years as a priest. This affection for the priest has
been part of the tradition of Killeshin, which has given to the
Australian church a remarkable family of Creedes, priests and nuns to
the number of eight, of Cappalug.
Frank O’Conor in his travel book Irish Miles describes a
conversation he had with a man on Killeshin who ‘looked down’ on the
town and went to Bagenalstown for his provisions rather than spend his
money in Carlow! Relations have improved and many Carlovians breathe the
fresh air of the Rossmore heights on Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays.
The shrine of Our Lady, which was at the old pithead, has been
moved to a prominent position close to the dancing board. (Has the local
committee any plan to restore the dancing board and make it a place of
gathering for the youth of the neighborhood?) Now from our windows in
Carlow we can look out at night to see the lights of the shrine and to
be reminded that there is in heaven one who is mother and queen. In
these times of affluence it is well to be reminded that Jesus Christ was
a poor woman’s son and that Jesus Christ worked hard for small pay. The
light over Rossmore could become for all of us a beacon pointing the way
to truth and wisdom.
Another boast for Killeshin is the tasteful re-arrangement of the
Church of the Holy Cross. This fine job of restoring the church to its
original beauty has been brought to completion by the work terminated
The church is now more obviously a building in which all are one
in worship and praise, in which the task of prayer is shared by all. The
opening of the sanctuary into the body of the church makes the family
experience of prayer more easily felt. I foresee that many visitors will
come to admire the additions of ambo, chair, tabernacle and decorative
surround. It is one of the most successful local adaptations of
sanctuary to the new style of celebration of the Mass introduced by the
Fathers of the second Vatican Council, a return to the simplicity of an
Just down the road from the church the final touches are being put
to the Killeshin community centre. (Not to mention other extensions
being made to a local hostelry further down the same road!) This
astonishing venture reflects a vigorous optimism of a young community,
which has its eye on the future and is not in search of its identity.
1973 is deservedly called the year of Killeshin because of all these
proofs of vital and farseeing activities in the parish.
And if you want to read further may I suggest that you acquire a
copy of Fiacc’s Folk, the Graiguecullen-Killeshin magazine, It rightly
draws attention to the fact that if you take a stroll up by the
waterworks you can meet Bill Bolton and hear from his lips the story of
this historic parish, proud of its past, young in its vigorous
preparation of the future.
From the Nationalist & Leinster Times 19 Jan.
1974. By kind permission
Killeshin Chapel Image by W.
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